Libyan forces close in on Islamic State's final stronghold

Libyan forces close in on Islamic State's final stronghold
2 min read
03 July, 2016
Libyan government forces have confined Islamic States' control of the eastern city of Sirte to 'a square kilometre', as the fighting enters a 'decisive' stage.
IS militants overran the city of Sirte in June last year [Getty]
Libyan pro-unity government forces say they have closed in on the Islamic State [IS] group's final stronghold in the militants' Mediterranean coastal bastion of Sirte.

Fighters allied to the Government of National Accord on Sunday encircled IS in the Ouagadougou conference centre – a huge building the group has made as its headquarters.

"Fighting is ongoing around the presidential palaces close to the port and at the Ouagadougou conference centre," the spokesman for the anti-IS operation, Mohammad al-Ghasry, told The New Arab.

"Ground troops are working in conjunction with snipers, while artillery and the air force are bombarding the conference centre and the neighbouring district. We have almost taken back the whole of Sirte," he added. 

Ghasry said that Islamic States' control of the city is now confined to a square kilometre.

Government troops seized control of a residential area in Sirte called the "700 housing units" on Friday.

     
     

"The battle to take the 700 housing units was fierce. IS put up a strong defence but was eventually forced to retreat after suffering tens of casualties. We have lost five soldiers and 71 have been wounded," the operation spokesman said.

Since May 12, pro-government forces from the west, Libyan naval forces and eastern militias have pushed the Islamic militants back into a residential zone inside Sirte.

But their early advances slowed when they entered Sirte on June 9 and reached built-up central and northern parts of the city. IS has hit back with suicide car bombs and sniper fire.

IS overran the city, around 450 kilometres east of the capital Tripoli, in June last year.

Nearly 200 anti-IS fighters have been killed and more than 600 wounded since the start of the offensive, according to medical sources.

Pro-government forces, commanded out of Misrata 190 kilometres to the northwest, are mostly made up of western militias established during the 2011 revolt that overthrew dictator Muammer Gaddafi.